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Van Jefferson looking forward to seeing dad on Sunday vs. Jets, but treating Week 15 like any other game

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – After the announcement flashed across the screen and Van Jefferson got the phone call that he had been drafted 57th overall by the Rams, an audible yell could be heard in the background toward the end of the video capturing the ensuing celebration.

"This is real!" a voice exclaimed.

That voice belonged to the rookie wide receiver's father, Shawn Jefferson, assistant head coach/wide receivers for the New York Jets.

Nearly months after that joyous moment for the Jefferson family, father and son will meet on the NFL stage for the first time on Sunday when the Rams host the Jets at SoFi Stadium (1:05 p.m. PT, FOX).

"It's just another game, but at the same time, I mean, it's my dad," Van said during a video conference Thursday. "I haven't seen my dad in a minute, so it's going to be cool to see him. But it's just another game. Just go out there, try to win and that's pretty much it."

When Van spoke with reporters after the draft, he credited his father for teaching him everything he knows about the game of football. Shawn played 13 seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver and has coached for 16, including this year. Prior to joining the Jets in 2018, Shawn also worked for the Lions when six-time Pro Bowl selection Calvin Johnson was there, as well as the Titans and the Dolphins.

Those lessons helped Van become a consensus, nationally-ranked four-star recruit at Brentwood (Tenn.) Ravenwood High and later a productive receiver for the University of Mississippi and the University of Florida as a grad transfer.

While Shawn's background was instrumental in Van's development, it also naturally kept him busy – Van said his father was able to attend a couple of his college games in person. Even if Shawn couldn't make it to a game, though, Van said he still watched and provided feedback.

"He always made sure to watch and correct me on things, you know, mistakes and stuff like that," Van said. "So he's always been there. Even though he hasn't physically been there, he's always been there, if you get what I'm saying."

Jefferson has played in all 13 games so far this season, logging 15 catches for 170 yards and one touchdown. Although his opportunities have been somewhat scarce with a trio of veterans in front of him in the wide receiver rotation, he did catch that first NFL touchdown in Tampa Bay with his mother and other family members in attendance.

Just because his numbers are low doesn't mean Van isn't making progress, according to Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who pointed back to what Van put on tape two weeks ago against the Cardinals.

"He continues to grow, continues to get better," Goff said during a video conference Wednesday. "I know we're still working on ways to activate him a little bit more, but he continues to understand everything more and more every week. He's extremely athletic. He's got great hands. I think you saw his shiftiness in some of those routes against Arizona, we were able to hit him over the ball on a route there and was able to see him kind of get shifty. He's got all the ability in the world and it's just a matter of time before he breaks out."

In fact, Rams head coach Sean McVay views it as his responsibility to get Jefferson more opportunities because he's earned them.

"I love the way he's handled himself," McVay said during a video conference Thursday. "I know I could be doing a better job of finding ways to get him more involved, because he's definitely deserving of that. But we've got a great deal of confidence in what his future looks like and hopefully he'll continue to make an impact for us as we finish up this season."

Could that in any way influence McVay's playcalling, especially with Van's dad on the other sideline watching?

"I keep finding ways to put Van in position because he's deserving of it and because I think he's going to be a really good player in this league," McVay said. "Because his dad is a receiver coach on the other sideline will not affect the game planning, if that's what you're asking."

Still, Jefferson should at least see a little bit of action if his snap count over the previous 13 games is any indication.

And when he does line up at the line of scrimmage, that moment from this spring will become even more real for both him and his dad, though his dad's reaction may be a little bit more subdued compared to when he got drafted.

"I think my dad, he's going to be happy, but my dad's not an emotional kind of person. He's just happy that I'm out there and I achieved one of my goals in life," Van said. "I think this is what we both expected. This has been a goal of mine since I was a kid, and he knew that and he supported my dream. So I think just going out there and seeing each other for (the first time in) a long time, of course it's going to be a good moment. But other than that, it's just another game. It's just business. Just go out there and play to the best of our ability and win the game."

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